“INRS has been for me a place where knowledge and curiosity can grow, guided by passionate researchers. I receive this award as a recognition of all my efforts of the last years, during which I have always considered science as a privileged place where it is possible for me to find myself, to nourish my need for knowledge and to increase my curiosity and my creativity.”
Ph.D. Biology, 2008
Why did you choose INRS for your studies?
The INRS Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie Research Centre brings together a great many high-level researchers. When I started my master’s, I was hesitating between biotechnologies and environmental issues. At INRS, I had the chance to access highly advanced researchers and facilities, both in human health and the environment.
What has stayed with you from your INRS experience?
Immersion in a setting dedicated to the advancement of science and knowledge. That’s where I created my first biotechnology company, my first marriage, my first child. I rubbed shoulders with eminent researchers, and was able to develop friendships with them. It was a difficult time, but so rewarding.
Do you have a favourite memory about the campus?
It’s definitely when I went for a run on the roof. My heart was set on fully participating in student life and the student association organized a kind of manhunt using syringes containing water. We each had a victim to catch and we weren’t allowed to catch him inside the building. So I chased after my target—unsuccessfully—the president of the Association, on the roof, from the back door right to the front.
What is the most important lesson you learned from your time at INRS?
Perseverance, a liking for cutting-edge knowledge and the possibility of discovering new things. Discoveries that have already been made are not an obstacle to making new discoveries, they’re a springboard for other possibilities. If the branches of a tree are new discoveries, then the extremities with new leaves are new research possibilities.
Can you speak about your career path since you obtained your degree?
I completed my doctorate while I was Executive Vice President of Biolactis. At the time, I was also the president of the Association pour les ingrédients santé en alimentation, and president of the Audit Committee of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Executive Committee in Québec. The company was sold in 2010. I then joined Bio-K+ International as Vice President Science and Development, then the following year, was at Neptune Technologies & Bioressources Inc., also as Vice President of Science and Development. Involved both in research and development, and business development, I was able to develop varied experience, from production technology development to product development for pharmaceutical subsidiaries, and also including intellectual property, regulatory matters and the conducting of clinical trials.
I have always been passionate about prevention and longevity in health, so in fall 2013 I launched Idunn Technologies, a biotechnology company specializing in the identification of “gerosuppressors,” anti-aging agents. An ambitious research program was established. As of now, our discoveries have led to seven scientific publications and the submittal of two major patent families. In fall 2016, I published my first book on longevity in health (Vivre jeune plus longtemps) at the same time we started to market Vitoli products. Since then I’ve published three other books.
I am currently a member of the science and technology ethics commission of the Québec Ministry of Economy and Innovation, and president of the Professional association for integrative health.
How did your time at INRS prepare you for your career?
With my dissertation supervisor, I had the opportunity to prepare two NSERC research grant applications, for more than a million dollars. This trained me well for the development of research programs. In parallel, the creation of the company also gave me an initiation into the business world.
What advice would you like to give to today’s students?
Be confident about the possibility of discovering new things and get involved in associations and groups that you care about. My father used to say to me that “if you don’t try, you get nothing.” I had the luck and the difficulty that comes with it, to think that everything is possible. That’s incredibly powerful.
What are your wishes for the future?
I would like to see a health prevention culture develop in Québec. That would mean that our health care system, which in my opinion is more a disease-focused system, would have as first objective keeping people healthy and allowing full collaboration from complementary approaches. Integrative health has been taught for more than 30 years to our neighbours to the South and elsewhere in the world. More than 70% of the population makes use of complementary approaches. Even the World Health Organization has taken a position in favour of integrative health based on the evidence and the possibilities that this approach offers to health care systems in terms of effectiveness and costs.